5 Top Takeaways From The Book: Project Drawdown
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Last year, I put my big-girl pants on and went to my first environmental conference. I went there to speak on a panel about lowering your environmental footprint. But what I didn’t know going into the conference was that I was gonna have the chance to learn from a ton of innovative people who are creating solutions that can literally stop climate change, bring clean water to everyone, and feed the world’s growing population. Throughout the conference, several speakers mentioned this book called Project Drawdown and how it was akin to their new bible.
Now, they say you need to see something 7 times before you act on it. And after an entire weekend of hearing about this book, and 3 months of delayed action on actually getting it, I saw it in the flesh in the gift shop of an environmental museum in New York. And so, I finally decided to get it.
Project Drawdown is touted as “the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. [And it’s] based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world.”
The book details the top 100 solutions for reversing climate change. And what I love most about it is that each solution is only 1 or 2 pages long. So if you’re anything like me, and you’re not a big reader, you can still learn about each solution even with that short attention span of yours.
What’s important to note about this book is that all of the data is uncontested. That means no one is calling it fake news. And no one is saying the data is skewed or untrue. These are facts based on science. In fact, many people say that the data is on the conservative side, which means that the benefits of these 100 solutions could be a lot greater depending on how aggressive we move on them. The book also outlines the net cost and savings for each solution. This is super important because people always gravitate to money. So these solutions need to be economically viable to get the ball rolling. Good thing they are!
Project Drawdown shows that stopping climate change is possible…
And there’s not just one solution, but many. And collectively, they have the potential to completely change the infrastructure of our planet for the better. So without further ado, I wanted to share some of the most interesting takeaways from Project Drawdown:
Wind is rated at the top…
Onshore wind turbines came in at the #2 spot. But if you combine onshore and offshore wind turbines (solutions #22 and #2), wind energy comes in hot as the #1 solution.
Air travel comes in at a mere #43!
For all of the uproar people place on banning all air travel as one of the major ways to stop climate change, the evidence suggests that it’s not even a top-40 solution. I’m not saying this isn’t an industry that needs a major overhaul. But we don’t have to be so extreme about it. Many things contribute to airplane emissions. So there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Solutions range from redesigning planes and the materials used to build them, moving the engine to the back of the plane, and changing taxiing protocols (like taxiing with 1 engine on instead of 2, or towing airplanes with their engines off). These solutions can makes airplanes 50-60% more efficient. That’s a lot. And what drives these improvements home even more is: “For each ton of carbon dioxide abated, [airlines save] $250.” This means that improving fuel and plane efficiency is better for their bottom line. As I said before, people follow the money.
Women are more important than you think when it comes to climate change.
Something that took me by surprise was the important role women play in reducing carbon emissions. Educating Girls and Family Planning came in at #6 and #7, which means they not only made the top 100 solutions, but they also beat out more than 90 others.
“Girls’ education, it turns out, has a dramatic bearing on global warming. Women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their reproductive health.”
In addition, access to reproductive health services plays a huge role in the amount of greenhouse gases produced by individuals. When women get access to family planning, they make more informed decisions about when they want to have children and how many. This is super important because every person “consumes resources and causes emissions throughout their life.” Giving women access to family planning and education empowers them to make their own decisions, rather than having cultural norms or a lack of education dictate how many children they have. The more educated women and girls are, the less children they have. This unquestionably dictates population growth and the emissions produced by each person on the planet.
Our food systems have the biggest chance at reversing climate change.
If you look at all the different sectors, from Energy to Food, to Land Use, to Transportation, Energy surprisingly doesn’t come in at #1. Food does!
When combined, energy solutions can reduce carbon emissions by 247 gigatons over the next 30 years. In comparison, food solutions have the ability to reduce emissions by 322 gigatons. So just by looking at our food systems alone, we can take a targeted hack at climate change. These solutions include reducing food waste, eating a plant-rich diet, regenerative agriculture, composting, and would you believe it: improved rice cultivation. I guess we all eat a lotta rice! There are other food solutions in the book. Those are just a few of the key ones.
As an individual, the biggest thing you can do is change what you eat and how you get your food.
What I found most fascinating about the book was that solutions #3 and #4 both covered food. Solution #3 was reducing food waste. And Solution #4 was eating a plant-rich diet. This was so striking because it meant that, as an individual, the #1 thing you can do is change your diet. Now, of course, things like clean energy and electric cars are also big solutions. But as you sit reading this, there’s not much you can do when it comes to those things. Those are bigger infrastructural changes that need to be executed on the business and government level. But as an individual, you have power, and it lies with your food choices.
If you’re interested in learning more about the top solutions for reversing climate change, I definitely recommend reading Project Drawdown.
It’s detailed, but not so much that you can’t follow along. And it doesn’t go super heavy into scientific jargon, so you won’t get lost in the terminology. Plus, it’s got pictures… who doesn’t love a book with pictures? This is one of my top recommendations for learning about climate change, understanding the scope of the problem, and seeing what the solutions actually look like.
What are your favorite sources for getting facts on climate change?
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**All quotes are direct quotes from the book Project Drawdown